Saturday, October 22, 2011

Don't forget the other categories!

Currently, most of the focus is on trying to figure out who the presumably five Performer inductees will be from the list of fifteen nominees.  And rightly so, it gets the most attention, it features the names that people are most familiar with, and it easily makes for the liveliest debate.  But the Performer category is only one category of inductees.  True Rock Hall Monitors are also interested in who gets inducted in the other categories.  So let’s speculate.


There hasn’t been a legitimate induction in the Early Influence category since 2000, when Billie Holiday and Nat “King” Cole got their due, and Cole’s induction indicated the possibility of legendary pre-rock singers being inducted as Early Influences in the future, since most of them dabbled in helping make jazz popular, which helped push African-American music toward the forefront of popular culture.  However, that hasn’t panned out   Now, though, we have an interesting possibility.  The “Women Who Rock” exhibit at the Hall Of Fame’s Museum in Cleveland made a specific reference to that of Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  Tharpe is one of the most supported candidates for the EI category, and since the voting process can’t guarantee any female inductees, they may want to get the biggest bang for their exhibit and induct her.  If the Hall Of Fame wanted to strike a second time, and do it with another woman, there’s no better choice than jazz queen Ella Fitzgerald, though she is a bit of a longer shot.  Otherwise, don’t look for any inductions in this category.

Picking this category is often very difficult.  The Hall Of Fame surprised us quite pleasantly when they finally honored Mort Shuman, Jesse Stone, and the songwriting teams of Greenwich & Barry and Mann & Weil in 2010.  Since last year, they honored two record company founders, they may go for songwriters again, or producers, or maybe some outside person.  Back in 2010, Roger Friedman claimed a leak confirmed that David Geffen would be inducted in 2010, and Doug Morris in 2011.  Geffen was indeed inducted in 2010, but Morris was not in 2011.  Maybe they decided to backpedal a little, but Morris does seem to have the right friends in the right places and was involved enough as a producer and a writer that it seems possible.  Honestly, the more I read about him, the less I like the possibility of him getting the honors, but there’s a chance of it happening.  On the other hand, if they do want to go for songwriters again, the recent passing of Nickolas Ashford puts him and wife and songwriting partner Valerie Simpson up at the top of the list.  Rolling Stone even did a half page eulogy of his accomplishments as half of Motown’s second biggest songwriting team.  Even though they did have an impressive string of R&B hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they’re better remembered as songwriters, so this is the category they’re most likely to get honors in, and this would be the optimal year to do it, so don’t be surprised.


Which now brings us to the biggest tongue-wagger and dome-scratcher: what to make of this scene?  There is a lot of question regarding the Side-Man category and the Musical Excellence Award.  And there’s an entire other blog entry to be written about the questions found here.  Is the latter a re-naming of the former, similar to calling the Non-Performer category the “Ahmet Ertegun Award”?  Interviews with some of the power-that-be suggest otherwise, saying this category will allow them the freedom to do things they hadn’t quite been able to do before; however, the news stories all treated it as if it were a simple renaming of the Side-Man category.  And to be honest, making the first such induction Leon Russell really only muddies the picture further.  Russell is absolutely worthy of induction, but you could really put him in as either a Performer or a Side-Man.  Elton John’s induction speech mentioned primarily his accomplishments as a session musician, but also made mention of his records as a primary artist.

So at this point, we’re really not sure what’s happening with this category, and it’s possible that the people at the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation aren’t entirely certain, either.  And maybe it’s best that they maintain that ambiguity for a little longer too, until they’re set.  If so, then the best possible induction to maintain that shroud of mystery would, in my opinion, be Ry Cooder, a prominent session man with an impressive catalog as a recording artist, too.  Another possibility would be the Wichita lineman himself, Glen Campbell, whose solo records might raise an eyebrow of suspicion, given his more country proclivities, but whose value as a side musician are impeccable enough to withstand any maelstrom of criticism.

However, if they do have it in their mind what they’re going to do, it’s a matter of sitting and watching.  If “Musical Excellence Award” is really a renaming of the “Side-Man” category, then I still stand by my recommendation of Tommy Tedesco, one of Phil Spector’s regulars, as one of the best next choices.  Or maybe they could finally get around to recognizing back-up singers, which there’s no better place to begin than with the Jordanaires.

However, my gizzard gets a bit queasy with the arrival of this category last year, and the noticeable absence of Chic and Chuck Willis from this year’s ballot, particularly the former.  I have no objection to the Musical Excellence Award essentially becoming a Lifetime Achievement category.  They have a Lifetime Achievement category, and it’d be nice to treat it as more than a subset of the Non-Performer category.  But don’t set up this category just to circumvent the nomination process and put in pet acts that you’re having a difficult time getting inducted despite many nominations.  I really don’t think this is going to happen, but you never know.

So there are some thoughts about who I feel are likely to be the next inductees in the categories other than Performer.  I’ll probably have my predictions up for the Performer inductees around Thanksgiving or so.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Arguments made

As we mull over the list of nominees this year, we come across a variety of arguments as to why this or that artist should or should not be inducted.  And really, you find this with just about any artist.  Name whatever artist you wish, and chances are at least one of these arguments will come into play.  Chances are you’ve used most of these arguments, and depending on the artists, you’ve been on both sides before.  Each one has its merits, but also its weaknesses.  And for those that have converse arguments as a reason to support or deny another artist, a lot of the same merits and weaknesses apply.  And most of them apply to this year’s list of nominees.  Some arguments are just plain ridiculous, but the main drawback to each of these is that they generally can’t be used alone.  In order to have a convincing argument, you have to be able to use more than one.  The more, the better.  Some of the more common arguments include:

1. No X before Y
--Example from this ballot: Guns N’ Roses, the Cure
--In a nutshell: This artist shouldn’t be inducted before a similar, earlier-arriving, and possibly more deserving artist is inducted.  In this case, the argument is that Guns N’ Roses shouldn’t be inducted until a band like Bon Jovi or KISS; or the Cure shouldn’t go in before Sonic Youth or the Smiths.
--Why it resonates: When a more recent choice is nominated, it gives the impression that the other artists are being tossed aside, and they want to make sure those artists aren’t forgotten.
--Its weaknesses: It wrongfully downplays a nominee or inductee’s actual merits.  Just because you think another artist is more deserving doesn’t mean that that nominee or inductee doesn’t deserve the honors as well.  The Hall doesn’t really have a chronological pecking order for acts.

2. Too soon
--Examples from this ballot: Eric B. And Rakim, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Guns N’ Roses
--In a nutshell: A corollary of the first argument above, really.  This says that an artist has barely been around long enough, that it hasn’t been 25 years since their magnum opus or when they hit their stride, and thus they should have to wait for other, earlier artists first.  For a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it means having to wait until 25 years after “Under The Bridge”, or for Guns N’ Roses, 25 years after Appetite For Destruction came out, or for Eric B. And Rakim, until 25 years after Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em.
--Why it resonates: Again, those who say this want to make sure we aren’t leaving other important acts behind for the sake of getting this year’s newly eligible big name.
--Its weaknesses: “Magnum opus” and “hitting their stride” can be pretty subjective.  And this is pretty much why the 25-year rule is in place to begin with.  And again, it attempts to downplay that artist’s merits so as to build up another, which never works.

3. One trick pony
--Example from this ballot: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts
--In a nutshell: Said artist only gave us one song or album that was worth anything and is the only reason they’re getting acknowledged.  Take that away, and we wouldn’t know or care who they are/were.  For Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” is the one trick from them, take that away, and you’ve got no case for them.
--Why it resonates: We want to make sure an artist is truly worthy, and worth should be more than one song or album.  Otherwise, we could just induct the song or album and call it good.
--Its weaknesses: It’s partially why we have the 25-year rule—to make sure the whole body of work is considered.  Aside from that though, know who else could be considered a “one trick pony”?  Inductees like Bill Haley, Bo Diddley, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers, and even (and perhaps especially) the Sex Pistols.

4. Bad later work
--Example from this ballot: Heart
--In a nutshell: Said artist didn’t maintain a level of excellence throughout their entire career, and thus aren’t deserving.  Most commonly happens when an artist’s later work starts appealing more to the Adult Contemporary audience, which is usually considered a bad thing.  In the case of Heart, songs like “What About Love” and “Never” suggest they went soft and lost what it means to be “rock.”
--Why it resonates: The world of rock and roll prefers a burnout to a fade away.  A bitter breakup or premature death is always preferred to growing old.  How did the Who put it?  “Hope I die before I get old.”
--Its weaknesses: An artist’s consignment to one radio format or another doesn’t have as much to do with the quality of their work as it does to with the radio industry or even the promotions department of a record label.  Contemporary Hits Radio is always about what’s new, and is quick to drop an artist that’s been around for more than five years.  AC radio always appreciates name recognition.  This argument also ignores the simple fact that people age and things change.  Also, remember, “If Looks Could Kill” came from the same album that gave us “These Dreams.”  And you know whom else this argument could apply to?  Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, etc.  Lastly, merit for the HoF isn’t necessarily an “average” of the quality of every single song.

5. Cronyism/pandering
--Examples from this ballot: Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, the Small Faces/Faces, Guns N’ Roses, the Red Hot Chili Peppers
--In a nutshell: Their nomination is because they’re either friends with someone among the powers-that-be, a return favor, it’s pandering to the stars with some hope of a reward, or just plain sucking up in general.  Joan Jett’s tribute performance to the Dave Clark Five in 2008 supposedly put her in good graces, as did Flea’s induction speech for Metallica the following year.  Also, there’re accusations that Guns N’ Roses’ nomination is an attempt to get Axl and Slash together again.  And of course, the more we see Rod Stewart, the more we love him, so let’s put the Small Faces/Faces in there as well.
--Why it resonates: When a procedure is enigmatic and snubs crowd pleasers, nothing reassures you that they are criminally snubbed more than a cry of compromised integrity.  You may even question the timing of some nominations and find it very telling, very telling inDEED!
--Its weaknesses: The artists are usually still pretty worthy of induction even if they didn’t have friends in high places.  As far as admirers, well, isn’t that kind of what this is about to a degree?  Besides, outside of raw scientific observation (and even that can be called into question), there is nothing that is one hundred percent free from bias. 

6. Who?
--Examples from this ballot: Freddie King, Laura Nyro, Eric B. And Rakim, Rufus with Chaka Khan
--In a nutshell: The nominee has next to no name recognition, large-scale-wise.  Unless you’re a student of hip-hop, you may not be too familiar with Eric B. And Rakim, and while most have heard of Chaka Khan, they may not remember that she was in a group called Rufus.
--Why it resonates: When you call something a Hall Of Fame, you expect there be inductees who are, or at least were, famous.
--Its weaknesses: The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame seems to be about mixing those who are household names with those who made excellent music but have never gotten their due in the past, and thus are correcting an injustice.  It’s (according to them) more about musical excellence than sales.  Plus, it also depends to a slight degree of the arguer’s musical tastes whether or not they’ve heard of someone. 
--Also applies to: They had lots of sales/hits (a supporting argument).

7. They didn’t write/produce/play instruments on (enough of) their records
--Examples from this ballot: the Spinners, Donna Summer
--In a nutshell: The nominee was just the vocal delivery for the majority of their records, and not being involved enough, aren’t the true “artists” on the records, or they just weren’t/aren’t talented enough to merit induction.
--Why it resonates: ever since the Beatles, the all-inclusive musician has been the ideal on the pedestal.
--Its weaknesses:  If any good has come from American Idol, it’s the lesson that singing truly is a musical talent and those who are good singers but don’t play guitar/drums/bass/keyboards have just as much right to be called musicians as those who do, or those who play but don’t sing.  A song with lyrics needs a voice to convey the message, and those who do it well are just as much artists as the ones who wrote the words.  Also, those we call “all-inclusive” are usually more “jacks-of-all-trades”, which includes “masters-of-none.”  There are plenty singer/songwriters who are either really good at one and not that good at the other, or are mediocre at both.  Those who are blessed with one gift may not have another, and can work symbiotically with those who find their situations are reversed.  We shouldn’t punish those who were truly excellent just because it was only in one aspect.  Give them their due in the category they deserve it.

8. Not enough influence or innovation
--Examples from this ballot: Donovan, Guns N’ Roses, Heart, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Laura Nyro, Rufus with Chaka Khan, the Spinners, War
--In a nutshell: The nominee didn’t change the music world enough by either doing something no one else had done before, or spawning legions of followers.
--Why it resonates: We want to know why we’re honoring an artist, and sometimes we’re not content with “making memorable music”, particularly if we don’t like that artist all that much.  Plus, they are presumably more objective measuring sticks for artists’ merits.
--Its weaknesses: Influence and innovation are simply not the primary criteria.  It’s “unquestionable musical excellence,” and while influence and innovation can help define that concept, sometimes music can be unquestionably excellent even if it isn’t innovative and doesn’t have imitators.  And even if “unquestionable musical excellence” is a pretty subjective tern, it has been a decent guideline so far in terms of how it’s worked out.  Also, there are kinds of influence, and even innovation, that each of us feel aren’t worthy of recognition at all.

9. Too good for the Hall Of Fame
--Examples from this ballot: the Beastie Boys, the Cure, War
--In a nutshell: The Hall of Fame is already a travesty and could never properly honor, and would in fact dishonor those acts by enshrining them, that they are above the Hall Of Fame.  (For the record, the examples listed are those I’ve seen it actually said about them, not my personal opinion).
--Why it resonates: The fandom can run so strong that if they’re not already in, it couldn’t possibly be a problem with the artist, so therefore, it’s the Hall Of Fame that is a disgrace.  It can be applied to any artist you’re passionate about.
--Its weaknesses: Induction into the Hall Of Fame is still widely considered a great honor by those that it matters to most, the artists.  Even those who have stated apathy about it or have said, “Don’t bother!” would still be honored to be inducted.  Case in point: Ozzy Osbourne when Black Sabbath finally got in.
--Also applies to: They don’t even want to be in all that much (another anti argument).

10. Not artistic enough
--Examples from this ballot: Heart, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, the Spinners, War
--In a nutshell: Their music is too appealing to the unwashed masses and not enough highbrow appeal.  If soccer moms listen to it, we don’t wanna honor it.
--Why it resonates: Music is called an art form, so those enshrined should be making higher art than those we keep out.
--Its weaknesses: Rock and roll is not exactly regarded as the artsiest musical format.  In fact, for a long time, it was considered just the opposite; it was held in lower regard than country music.  Plus what is art and what isn’t can be very subjective, and what one person doesn’t get out of a particular work, another may embrace.  Also, those who use this argument basically define art as “anything that isn’t ‘family friendly’, or that which pisses off White, conservative, Christians,” which is really an absurd metric to use.
--Also applies: Very artistic (supporting argument)

11. They suck!/rule!
--Examples from this ballot: take your pick, maybe Small Faces/Faces (hahahaha!, inside joke)
--In a nutshell: An artist’s music is beneath contempt/above reproach.
--Why it resonates: It’s a jingoistic slogan, which allows us to support an artist without having to think too critically about their lack/abundance of merit.
--Its weaknesses: It’s a jingoistic slogan that prevents us from thinking too critically about an artist’s lack/abundance of merit.  And it’s a subjective statement that at best can only result in a stalemate of opinion, without advancing the discussion further.  Even Madonna fans were surprised that there were people who don’t love and blindly follow Madge, let alone just how staunchly they hated her music.

12. The Hall Of Fame’s a joke until they’re inducted
--Examples from this ballot: the Cure, Heart, Donna Summer
--In a nutshell: The artist is so worthy that the fact that they weren’t first ballot clinchers ruins the credibility of the establishment.
--Why it resonates: It allows us to reassign blame while maintaining the unimpeachable excellence of a particular artist.  Plus, anti-establishmentarian thought demands that it’s the institution’s fault.
--Its weaknesses: They’ve inducted Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, U2, etc.  The Hall Of Fame’s credibility is pretty much intact at this point.

13. Super influential
--Examples from this ballot: the Cure, the Beastie Boys
--In a nutshell: Their influence is too big to ignore.
--Why it resonates: Again, influencing future artists is something that generally gets an artist inducted.
--Its weaknesses: The main reason this argument gets its own listing instead of just noted as the reverse of Number 8 is because sometimes when this argument is used, it is used to refer to the myriad of very minor, never-breaking-through artists that followed in an artist’s wake.  As more and more of the independent label and underground scene icons get recognized, the fact that they inspired many more indie label/underground artists is supposed to signify that they were therefore a success in this regard.  The main problem is that even if they were indie/underground, they still got famous and major name recognition.  Another example is, even though they never had a hit single, people had heard of the Velvet Underground.  Most such heroes at least had either some critical acclaim or at least some level of chart success.  When they acknowledge these kind of artists for their influence, it’s because they were not only quasi-big names themselves, but so were a lot of the artists that claimed them as influences as well.  When the Hall recognizes influence, they acknowledge the earthquake that had aftershocks, not the rattling of a small town caused by a nearby train that caused some dishes to break.

14. They’re not rock
--Examples from this ballot: the Beastie Boys, Eric B. And Rakim, Freddie King, Laura Nyro, Rufus with Chaka Khan, the Spinners, Donna Summer
--In a nutshell: Their music doesn’t qualify as “rock and roll” and therefore they shouldn’t be in.
--Why it resonates: By “rock”, they usually mean “RAWK!”  The connotation of what is “rock” music has changed to mean harder, often guitar-driven rock ‘n’ roll.  Even Gene Simmons said something to the effect of rock ‘n’ roll being hard guitar music.  It also is an attempt to remind of us of artists that are played on “classic rock” radio stations that haven’t been recognized.  Add to that, the Mainstream and Album rock charts reflect this cultural shift, and what is rock and what isn’t appears cut and dry.
--Its weaknesses:  It blatantly ignores the history of rock ‘n’ roll, of its roots in R&B, folk, gospel, country, jazz, and even some of the standard pop artists of the pre-rock era.   Early rock ‘n’ roll was largely steeped in R&B, and even most of the heroes of British Invasion came to America playing covers of R&B songs.  Plus, rock has evolved so much over the years in different forms, that there simply can’t be any definition that is both accurate AND concise. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How do I like this year's nominees?

Previously, on Rock Hall Monitors, I attempted to be objective in my rankings of the nominees, the first time I ever attempted to rank the NomCom’s nominees list before..  So hopefully it wasn’t too big a disappointment.  Now, we throw all that away, and make it all about my personal preferences.  Feel free to list your personal rankings in the comments.  That’s what this is all about!  “Monitors” is plural for a reason!  Along with my personal taste rank, I’ll factor in the place they got last time on my merit list, and get an average score.  This is to determine the likelihood of whom I’d actually vote for.  As I said last time, I’m honest enough to know that whom I’d vote for would be a combination of merit and personal taste.  I’ll also factor in the merit analysis from my associate, GFW, who posted his pecking order of the nominees’ merit on the Future Rock Legends site, and we’ll get four averages to work with.  Let’s see where this takes us.  Onto my list of likes:

1. Guns N’ Roses:  I’m a child of the ‘80s.  I remember when “November Rain” came out.  I once knew all the lyrics to both versions of “Don’t Cry.”  I grew up with 80’s hair metal, and I still love it.  Combine them with ranking third last time from me and tied for fourth according to GFW.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 2
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 2.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 3.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 2.67

2. The Spinners:  This is a group that actually took me some time to learn to like, but now that I have, I’m a huge fan.  “One Of A Kind (Love Affair)” is an underrated classic.  I’m not crazy about their latter day medleys, but it’s good soul music.  Throw in their 6 ranking from me and a lowly tied for twelfth from GFW.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 4
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 7
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 9
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 5.33.

3. The Beastie Boys: I actually really love “Girls” as well as “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).”  So many good songs.  With 4 from before, and tied for first by GFW we have…
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 3.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 2
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 2.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 2.67

4. Joan Jett And The Blackhearts:  Solid, pounding rock.  Just fun stuff that’s pretty straightforward.  But with 13 from before from me and GFW’s tie for tenth…
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 8.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 7
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 11.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 9.

5. The Cure:  As much as I hate deadpan vocal delivery, Robert Smith can sure sing, and the instrumentation is solid all the way.  At number 2 in merit from me and GFW tying them for first…
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 3.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 3
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 1.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 3.67

6. War: Cool funk.  Always puts you in a good mood, except I don’t care much for “Spill The Wine.”  11 from before from me, while GFW tied them for number 7.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 8.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 6.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 9
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 8.

7. Donovan: Other than “Sunshine Superman”, I really enjoy his stuff.  Personal favorite is “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”, but “Catch The Wind” is a really good one too.  10 from me, tied for 12 from GFW.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 8.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 9.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 11
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 9.67

8. Eric B. And Rakim: I was underwhelmed with their Paid In Full album, but Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em was really good and shows better why they’re taken seriously.  7 from both me and GFW.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 7.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 7.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 7
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 7.67

9. Freddie King: Excellent blues.  Both instrumental and vocal.  9 merit from me, and tied for 10 from GFW.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 9
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 9.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 9.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 9.33

10. Laura Nyro: I was blown away when I first heard “I Never Meant To Hurt You.”  She not only mimicked Bachrach And David’s style perfectly, she did it better than them.  Gorgeous voice.  But 12 from me before and 15 from GFW…
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 11
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank. 12.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 13.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 12.33

11. Rufus With Chaka Khan:  It takes a few listens to really get into their stuff, except for “Tell Me Something Good”, which hit with me right away.  Coming in at 14 before from me and GFW…
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 12.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 12.5
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 14
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 13

12. Heart: The Swiffer commercials turned me off from “What About Love” altogether, and the majority of their power ballads don’t sit well, nor do “Barracuda”, “Crazy On You,” or “Magic Man.”  But “If Looks Could Kill” is a great song, and they’ve got a few others I like.  8 from before and GFW ranking them at 6, we see that:
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 10
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 9
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 7
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 8.67

13. The Small Faces/Faces: I had to really listen a few times before I could appreciate the Small Faces, but even now, I’m not a huge fan.  Faces had some good songs, but their kind of generic to me, too.  I ranked them at number 15, while GFW placed them cozily at 9.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 14.
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 11
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 12
Average combing both merit scales and my personal taste rank: 12.33

14. Donna Summer:  I like “Heaven Knows”, “The Wanderer” and can tolerate “Hot Stuff.”  Don’t care much for the rest of her stuff, and I find “I Feel Love” and “Love To Love You Baby” to be ear-splittingly painful.  I ranked her at 5, GFW at 4.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 9.5
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 9
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 4.5
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 7.67

15. The Red Hot Chili Peppers: I hate, hate, hate the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The only song I like by them is “Catholic School Girls Rule.”  “Give It Away” sounds like it could have been in the Malibu’s Most Wanted soundtrack if it had less guitar.  Their R&B covers are decent, but unimaginative.  “Scar Tissue” ranks in my Five Least Favorite songs ever (not including anything by Ke$ha, who would fill up THAT top five alone), and together with “Under The Bridge”, it sums up their musical style in what I describe as “dying of thirst.”  I literally feel thirsty after listening to those songs.  Another artist like that is Ray LaMontagne.  Dust bowl arid.  I respect these artists, but I don’t like them.  But being number 1 before from me and GFW placing them at 3.
Average using my merit rank and personal preference rank: 8
Average using GFW’s merit rank and my personal preference rank: 9
Average of GFW and my merit ranks, minus personal taste: 2
Average of both merit ranks and my personal taste rank: 6.33

So the five with the highest average ranks using my merit and personal taste pecking orders::
Guns N’Roses
The Cure
The Spinners
The Beastie Boys
Eric B. And Rakim

The five with the highest average rankings using GFW’s merit list and my personal taste list:
The Beastie Boys
Guns N’ Roses
The Cure
tie between the Spinners and Joan Jett And The Blackhearts

The five with the highest average rankings of only the two merits lists:
The Cure
The Red Hot Chili Peppers
Guns N’ Roses
The Beastie Boys
Donna Summer

The five with the highest average rankings incorporating all three lists:
Guns N’ Roses
The Beastie Boys
The Cure
The Spinners
The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Of the four lists of average ranks’ Top Fives, I like either the first or last one best.  I’d probably swap out Eric B. And Rakim/The Red Hot Chili Peppers for a female artist, just to make sure that the “Women Who Rock” exhibit wasn’t completely in vain (and I’d probably make it Donna Summer, as I listed her as the most deserving female), or take the third list and swap the Spinners in place of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (I’m not leaving Philly soul off the vote), but aside from that, I could probably live with that being my ballot cast: Guns N’ Roses, the Beastie Boys, the Cure, the Spinners, and Donna Summer.  If I only got a vote.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who deserves it most?

Having had about a week or so to let the news sink in regarding the nominees for the Class of 2012 for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, I believe I have most of my predictions mapped out.  Nonetheless, my analyses don’t stop at whom I believe will be enshrined.  Admittedly, I’m not sure how I’d even vote if I were lucky enough to be a member of the voting bloc.  I’m honest enough with myself to know I probably wouldn’t necessarily vote for the top five most deserving, but I know I wouldn’t vote for my personal favorite five acts on the ballot, either.  Probably some mixture of the two.  With that, I’ll start with the harder part of the equation: trying to objectively determine the order of merit.  I’m combining factors of Innovation, Influence, Impact, and any other Intangibles I think may factor in determining an act’s rank on this list; unpopular as the decision may be, I also try to give equal weight to each of the first three items, so a boatload of Impact can make up for a lesser amount of Innovation or Influence.  Keep in mind, as many others have said, there’s really no bad name on the ballot.  Coming in fourteenth or fifteenth on this list is still pretty good when you consider the list of sixteen through umpteen that didn’t get nominated.  That said, let’s give you something to hate me for.

Impact: They’re still staples of alternative rock radio, regularly making both the Rock charts and the Hot 100.  Still getting rave reviews for their albums, with a new one out currently making waves.
Innovation: They didn’t invent funk or alternative, but they do it with a style that can only be really described as unique, which is somewhat innovative in and of itself.
Influence: I’m not familiar with the list of artists that claim them as influence, but their style is heard in subsequent rock bands, so it’s gotta be there.
Intangibles: With an image that’s gimmicky, but subtly so, as well as covers of R&B classics, they’re a band that seems to keep it true to what it means to be rock and roll, whatever that means.

Innovation: They may not have been inventors of new wave per se, but they’ve been around since its genesis, and its exodus to the U.S airwaves.  Like RHCP above, they’re a band whose sound is unique.
Influence: A unique sound but one that others still attempt to duplicate.  Their influence expands even beyond the new wave genre, to all facets and subgenres of the non-mainstream music scene.  You might say they’re the Leviticus AND the Deuteronomy of indie-label rock.  The numbers don’t lie, and it shouldn’t come as much of a revelation.  Ok, enough Bible puns, before I get the Acts… er, ax. 
Impact: They’re a name you know no matter what you listen to.  And for being indie gods (no pun intended I swear), they actually had a respectable run of mainstream success.
Intangibles: Ever since Robert Smith took down Mecha-Streisand on South Park, the coolness perception of the Cure has only gone up, and really hasn’t come back down…and that’s considering it was already pretty high up to begin with.  Also, they stand for a segment of the rock world that seems to be in pretty sore need of recognition.

Impact: The impact and quality of their anthemic songs like “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “November Rain”, and “Welcome To The Jungle” more than make up for the fact that they were latecomers to the game of their own sub-genre of rock.
Influence: The axemanship of Slash has never fully waned, and even Axl’s eccentricity hasn’t fully diminished the influence of his songwriting or his impressive vocal range.
Innovation: Not too much, as they were latecomers to the game, but they did take the “crazy party” aspect of hair metal and placed more emphasis on that former word.  The sanity never fully returned.
Intangibles: When the rumor started flying that the 25-year rule might be reduced to 20, this is the band that sprang to mind as the first answer to the question why.

Innovation: Punk-rap.  Hadn’t been done before.  They also brought a sense of novelty to the genre of hip-hop as well.
Impact: They brought rap to the suburbs, gave it a whole new audience, which surpasses the almost self-imposed lack of commercial success.
Influence: It’s hard to say, as rap groups pretty much died out by the mid-90’s, but many a rapper acknowledges their credibility.
Intangibles: They’re the group, almost as much as the already inducted Run-D.M.C. that capitalizes the point that rap is a legitimate part of rock and roll.

Impact: An incredible string of catchy and memorable disco classics.  Tremendous crossover between the Hot 100 and the R&B charts.  Like GNR, it more than makes up for the fact that she was a little bit of a latecomer (at least when it came to hitting her stride) to her particular scene.
Influence: Only almost the whole dance music scene of the ‘80s and beyond, as well as upon her contemporaries of the time.
Innovation: Not much.  Again, latecomer to the disco scene, but she’s responsible for helping give it a much more sizzling pace and flavor.
Intangibles: She’s royalty: the Queen of Disco.  That’s the kind of nickname that really should mean something.  Plus disco’s representation in the Hall has been pretty paltry.

Impact: An also-impressive string of infectious and memorable Philly soul classics.  Regular crossover between the Hot 100 and R&B charts.
Influence: The genre of soul greatly shifted as the Spinners were at the top of their heyday, nonetheless, there is some influence upon the likes of Hall And Oates, as well as subsequent soul musicians
Innovation: Despite not really inventing Philly soul, their style was more rhythmically driven than that of their contemporaries (perhaps due to their usage of doo-wop style background vocals), making it something unique they brought to the table. 
Intangibles: They’re a solid representation of Philly soul, which there isn’t much of in the Hall right now.  They’re also a quasi-representation of Motown, having put in a brief stint at that legendary label. 

Influence: In spades.  You can hear their influence in so many forms of hip-hop from the rappers of today to Christian rappers from the late 80’s like D-Boy and DC Talk.
Innovation: Not hugely innovative on the surface, but they did evolve the art form to use faster rhythms
Impact: Their biggest hit was as guest credit on a Jody Watley record.  Even on the R&B charts, they weren’t ever top of the heap, but they stayed a name with a continuous album output.
Intangibles: Unique combo of a master mixer and a consummate rhyme-buster.

Impact: Plenty.  A good span of chart success, songs that are still memes due to commercial usage, we even remember the names of the female members.
Influence: Somewhat niche, but there with the likes of their contemporaries such as Pat Benatar and fellow nominee Joan Jett And The Blackhearts.
Innovation: Not much to speak of.
Intangibles: Their part in the rise of power ballads is unquestionable, even if the value of power ballads themselves is.  Also, songs like “Dog And Butterfly” and “Dreamboat Annie” well display their versatility and keen musicianship.

Influence: The man’s got a lot, including those who were around when he was, and those who followed, such as Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Innovation: Since I’m not a player or student of guitar myself, I can’t speak heavily to how he was innovative in the blues.  Presumably some.
Impact: Marginal.  A handful of Top Ten R&B chart hits, and only one charted album on the Hot 200..
Intangibles: Due partially to the fact that he’s the earliest name on the ballot, his bluesy style is the most true to original style rock ‘n’ roll of any name on here, seconded by the Spinners’ soul.

Impact: A good cache of songs that we still remember and love to this day.
Innovation: Not a whole lot, since he was something of a latecomer to both folk-rock and the British invasion, but he’s perhaps the premiere psychedelic-folk artist.
Influence: Psychedelic-folk didn’t last too long, but like most of the psychedelic scene, it was largely absorbed and hinted at in trippier songs in the prog-rock catalog.
Intangibles: Also a good, respected songwriter.

11. WAR
Impact: “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends” are both songs that continue to transcend generations, as do to a lesser extent “Spill The Wine” and “The Cisco Kid.”  A respectable string of commercial success, they’re considered a “cool” band that’s always a good call.
Innovation: Early Latin-funk band.
Influence: Hard to gauge, danceable Latin rhythms often appeared in a lot of disco, as did funk, but they weren’t the only funk outfit around at the time, nor the only name in Latin-rock.
Intangibles: Rock ‘n’ roll is hailed for its accomplishments in crossing social borders.  War being an interracial outfit, this may be a point of relevance.  It makes for interesting debate at least.

Influence: Highly respected and cited as a singer/songwriter.  Songs widely covered, as well, much like Leonard Cohen.
Innovation: Perhaps the first to give blue-eyed soul a Southern style to it, with songs like “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Sexy Mama.”
Impact: Criminally minimal chart success, her biggest hit ironically a cover of the Drifters’ “Up On The Roof”, and she’s more remembered as a songwriter than a singer/songwriter, due to the fact that others liked her songs so much, they covered them and had success with them.
Intangibles: Possibly the artiest singer/songwriter on the ballot.

Impact: With “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” being the huge smash it was (#1 song of the entire year 1982), and it still being anthemic, subsequent songs including “I Hate Myself For Loving You” help make Joan Jett arguably the woman you first think of as proof that women could rock just as hard as the boys.
Influence: Again, the anthemic nature of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was so impacting, it evolved somewhat into some influence in the female rockscape.
Innovation: Minimal, if any.
Intangibles: Does anyone else think she looks like the rebellious twin of Joyce DeWitt from Three’s Company?  Not really sure what that has to do with anything, but I thought I’d bring that up.

Before we get to the last two, I intentionally placed them in the bottom two spots.  The debacle and debate surrounding their bundled nominations and questions raised because of them, in my opinion, actually hinder their merits, since I think it should be clear from the outset why we’re celebrating their nominations and possible inductions.  Plus it also makes it seem like they weren’t good or worthy enough to give each effort individual recognition.

Impact: In its own right Rufus struck big a few times with great and funky R&B songs like “Ain’t Nobody”, “Once You Get Started”, and of course, “Tell Me Something Good.”  As a soloist, Chaka Khan was the second biggest disco queen, after fellow nominee Donna Summer.  And in a perfect world, “I’m Every Woman” would be a more prominent feminist anthem than “I Will Survive.”
Innovation:  The sounds they made with their rhythm section were seldom, if ever, heard before, and their insistence on vocal harmonies with funk in a way that even Sly And The Family Stone didn’t do as consistently makes their sound something somewhat new and creative.
Influence:  Really helped bring funk to the disco scene, which was later carried on by the GAP Band and Chic.
Intangibles: In his Top Pop Singles books, Joel Whitburn lists Rufus under the letter K as part of Chaka Khan.  However, in his R&B singles, Disco/Dance tracks, and Hot Albums books, Whitburn lists Rufus as a separate entity from solo Chaka Khan.  That, and the fact that many of the singles from the group did in fact credit “Rufus And Chaka Khan”, inducting them under this identity actually still leaves the door open for a separate, second, and solo induction for Chaka Khan.  And that might not be a bad idea.

Influence: The Small Faces are credited as influences for the mod revival scene of the ‘80s, cited by the Jam’s Paul Weller, as well as by later bands like Oasis.  Faces were an influence on the blues-rock scene in the ‘70s.
Innovation: The Small Faces were more experimental with their sound.  Faces built further upon the sound started partially by the likes of Cream and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Impact: Faces had more of it, though “Itchycoo Park” is the biggest hit of the entire combined history.  Faces is more remembered, and a good part of the reason why we remember Rod Stewart as ever having been a rocker.
Intangibles: Both of them have albums that are considered semi-classics.  Which again, might not be a bad idea to give them separate inductions.  Even though I’ve gone on record as saying combining them together was the right move, I’d almost be willing to capitulate to the contrary position simply for the sake of keeping the peace.  If they get inducted like this, it will be the most controversial induction since Wanda Jackson got stuffed into the Early Influence category

So there you have it.  An attempt to objectively weigh the merits of each nominee.  And if you’ve read the whole thing, you’re no doubt raring to tell me where and how miserably I’ve failed.  At least I tried.  Next time, I go the opposite direction and get completely subjective: ranking the nominees strictly on my musical tastes.  You’ll really hate me then.